As a history and education major with a minor in theater arts, senior Sara Sotelo is looking forward to taking time to decompress after graduation before taking the next big step of applying to graduate school for an MFA in dramaturgy or possibly an MA in history. “I look forward to exploring the different parts of myself that I haven’t been able to fully articulate while in school,” she says.
Originally from Covina, in the San Gabriel Valley outside of Los Angeles, Sara grew up in a very close-knit family, visiting her grandparents practically every weekend in nearby East L.A. “My family is your stereotypical close Mexican family,” she says. “All of my family knows what each other is doing at all times. I have an older sister and a younger sister who I talk to almost every day. Same goes for my parents, I think I message my mom nearly every day and call my dad nearly once a week and force them to show me my dog, Lola. My grandma and tata and my abuelita and abuelito are truly the reason that I am here at UCSC, they constantly believe in me and my ability to do anything I put my mind to.”
Sara also has been working part-time at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History as an assistant education coordinator, along with acting and being a dramaturg with UCSC’s Barnstorm Theater, a student-run production company established in 2004. She says that theater has been a passion of hers for a long time and she fell in love with it when she joined her first production on campus in 2020. But she also shares that passion for history which started when she was in fifth grade.
“My Dad used to show me documentaries when I was sick and would fight the illness to keep watching them,” she says. “I chose to study education in the middle of the pandemic. I saw that history was not being understood by the people. In a rush to rectify the lack of diversity in our history, people weren’t connecting with its current ramifications. I knew that because I had a passion for history and a desire to help people understand history, I should learn how to hone in those skills.”
Sara was drawn to UC Santa Cruz after hearing about it from a family friend who had gone there and assured her that she would love the campus, which she did as soon as she visited. She liked that UCSC was only a few hours away from her home, while still allowing her to be just far enough so that she could experience a certain amount of independence.
Her favorite part about being at the university are her wonderful friendships. “I have made so many friends that are wildly different from me but have benefited my life exponentially,” she says. “I can’t imagine any part of my college experience without thinking of my friends. The friends I made in the dorms that are my housemates now. My friends that I did theater with on Zoom. And my friends through Merrill College or the Tours Program. I have met people during my time here that I wish I had met sooner because they have made my life immensely better. It is all my friends that have made my college experience 100% worth it.”
She credits all of the people in her life, from her family to her friends, with inspiring her in various ways. She stresses that her family has always wanted her to be happy no matter what path she chose in life, and that kind of love and support makes her someone who really cares about her friends and keeps her especially close to her parents and sisters.
“I love being around the people that I care about,” says Sara. “I am also really passionate about education. I think education is such a powerful tool when it has a base in equity. Being a part of your community is intertwined with equitable education because our communities shape us and how we learn.”
In her free time she enjoys reading a wide variety of books and is obsessed with watching Dungeons and Dragons and movies. She also loves to watch TV with her roommate since that’s something they can do together, and over the last year she has become a very enthusiastic bowler and miniature golf player.
Sara advises new students that college won’t always be the perfect experience but to keep persevering. “You will find yourself a lot later than you thought, but it will be so worth it. It's okay to let people go and let other people in, only have the people in our life that add to it. If people make you cry, they aren’t worth being in your life and that is okay because there are amazing people who do want to be in your life.”
She also recommends that freshman be wildly open to new experiences. “UCSC has so much to offer students, take advantage of it all,” she says. “Use all the discounts, go to all the events, hang out with a wide group of people. But ultimately listen to yourself. College is about figuring out who you are and the process never ends so just be open!”